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Opinion: Best practices in hiring reputable contractors

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It’s no secret all industries are struggling to find enough workers. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Springfield metro area dropped to a 2.1% unemployment rate in November 2021.

While some businesses are decreasing requirements for employment, many are continuing to focus on hiring the person who is the right fit for the culture of the company. The right fit includes finding someone who is trustworthy and dependable.

When hiring a contractor, hiring a trustworthy employee you can depend on is critical. The contractor will be providing a service, much like an employee does for your business. Trust is a two-way street in the workplace and impacts communication on both sides. While construction is booming, many contractors are able to select who they want for customers – similar to job seekers having the option of selecting an employer.

Building new or repairing can include stressful decision making. Think of hiring a reputable contractor you can trust like hiring a new employee. Options include word-of-mouth recommendations from those you trust, reaching out to an expert for recommendations or making phone calls based on a Google search or advertisement.

When asking for recommendations from friends and family, make sure you are asking the right questions. Ask if they have ever specifically had work done by the contractor, what type of work, when the work was done, their project priorities and how they communicated with the contractor. Many people recommend companies solely because they know one person who works there without knowing the culture of the company, the quality of their work or what happens if something breaks down the road.

A reputable contractor will have all of the required businesses licenses and insurance for the type of work they do. As the owner, you can always request copies of licenses and insurance. Most contractors will take the responsibility of applying for necessary permits, but it is always good practice to check with the person you hire for confirmation on what you are responsible for as the owner.

Always ask about the length of any warranties available, but also request information on what is specifically included in the warranty. Warranties tend to be written by legal departments, so take time to review the verbiage or to research common repairs that may be needed. It is also recommended to ask the contractor who the warranty is through – the contractor or the manufacturer?

Arrange a payment schedule that works for you and the contractor. Be careful about paying too much up front. Avoid paying cash unless you receive an official receipt. Never pay in full prior to a project being finished completely, and then request a receipt stating everything has been paid in full. A lien waiver can also be requested from the contractor stating suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.

If time is a concern, consider an incentive for early completion. With current supply chain shortages, liquidated damages and late completion penalties can result in a higher charge for the additional risk.

For large projects, it is recommended to request bids from multiple contractors. Beware of extremely low bids. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t worth the risk. When you hire the cheapest contractor because the lowest price sounds great, it can end up costing you more than the original cost of the higher bids after they demo the previous work and start over. Bids in the same ballpark are a safer bet.

If you are reaching out to contractors without a recommendation, feel free to ask the contractor for references or examples of other projects. Remember, references typically are only given for people someone knows will give a positive review, so do your due diligence researching the company online as well using websites such as the Better Business Bureau.

As businesses continue to struggle with finding quality workers, the importance of selecting the right contractor is even more important. Remember, you are hiring the business as well as the individual performing the work. After building a relationship with one contractor, you are opening up another point of referral for future projects as well.

Megan Short is executive director of the Springfield Contractors Association, a member of the Salute to Design & Construction Council. She can be reached at megan@springfieldcontractors.org.

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